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Amtrak bomb threat detailed

(The Westerly Sun posted the following article on its website on October 27.)

WESTERLY, R.I. -- Authorities say the man on the phone line Tuesday night spoke with what seemed to be an Italian accent. At first, they said, he asked general train departure and arrival questions of the Amtrak representative.

But soon, the caller would provide very specific details about train No. 177 -- including a declaration that an explosive device was concealed on the train and set to "go off."

The Tuesday evening Boston-to-Washington eight-car train was making its way into the Westerly station at about 7:30 when Amtrak officials in Boston notified Westerly police that a bomb threat had been received. Officials indicated there was a possibility that an explosive was on the train, and notified authorities the train would be stopped in Westerly.

Westerly Police Capt. Lauren Matarese said no explosive device was ever found. No suspects have been identified, no passengers were deemed suspects, and no one was detained, Matarese said. But more than 75 federal, state and local emergency first responders were called into action.

As the train arrived at the Westerly station, the 115 passengers on board were ordered to leave the train and were routed into the station. Many, police said, were "confused and a little curious." And at least one passenger would later refuse to re-board, and opted instead to wait with her kids for another train.

Matarese said that as the passengers were removed, the train was backed up to a "safe" location further back on the line - at a site off Bradford Road and across from the state highway garage. There, officials along with bomb sniffing dogs from the Rhode Island State Police and Rhode Island State Fire Marshal's office conducted a thorough search of the train, along with Amtrak officials and conductors.

Within two hours - and after all passengers were interviewed and all packages, baggage and passenger hand-held luggage was accounted for - the train slowly chugged back into the station at Westerly.

Matarese, joined at the scene by Westerly Fire Chief David Sayles, said several local, state and federal law-enforcement and fire agencies and officials - Rhode Island State Police and the FBI - were on the scene as the train entered the station. Matarese said that a command post was established at the state public works garage, with the Mobile Command unit as a control center. That post was manned by Lt. Thomas L. Toscano III who assisted in co-ordinating communication and information sharing between the various agencies.

Members of the Westerly Fire Department and Westerly Ambulance Corp. also responded and assisted with the investigation, Matarese said.

"The importance of interagency communication cannot be understated," Matarese said. "And in this case, to a very successful conclusion. Their efforts are all to be praised."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

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